Nicky has never mastered gardening and never will. He is absolutely hopeless at it. From time to time, Alex tires to teach him, but it always fails (”God Nicky what if I die and you don’t know how to prune the hedges or mulch the flower beds, then Sid will have a better lawn than me and I’ll have to come back from the dead to sabotage his lawn mower and destroy his flowers and oh god I can’t handle this where’s the ibuprofen”). Tom is pretty good at it though. Kuzy and Andre are also decent at it. V is hopeless like his Papa.
V and Nicky usually make brownies while the boys get dirty. One of V’s favorite things to do is spray the muddy boys down with the hose. They still have to shower though, and whoever gets clean the fastest gets to lick the bowl clean. Of course, Andre almost always wins. You see, Andre knows that slow and steady wins the race. Tom and Kuzy both hurry too much and don’t actually get clean. You have to actually get clean to lick the bowl. Alex always gets the spoon so he doesn’t care, but also they are kids so he isn’t gonna fight them for the bowl.
He gets the best treasure of all: the love of his children, and sweet, sweet dick from his husband.
They meet under a neutral flag at a neutral setting, which
is actually one of the family lounges and one of Eller’s practice jerseys taped
onto one of Alex’s sticks, and held by Jakub Vrana who looks like he has no
idea of what is going on or why he’s being made to stand on a chair and hold a
shirt-stick-flag, but is too nervous to do anything otherwise. Alex sits down
at one side of the table, and Alzy sits down at the other, the two groups taking seats down either side in a rough breakdown of Canada and America on the left, and everyone else on the right. They wait in dead silence.
When Nicky finally walks in, he
ignores both of them and sits at the head of the table. He doesn’t say anything
for a full two minutes, drumming his fingers and staring at every single person
in the room.
“By the power vested in me as last year’s prank war winner,”
he finally says. “I declare this 2017 season open, effective as soon as
this meeting is officially adjourned. No rules are changed or updated from last
year, only the people officially playing. The scoresheet with everyone listed who’s
playing is taped up in the locker room, to be updated by a neutral party who is
not taking part, this year represented by Grubi. He will also have final say
and authority over all point allocations and decisions, and will hold the cash pot
and award it to the one with the highest points at the end of the week. If necessary
he’ll also judge the winner’s favor request for the losers if there is a formal
protest or debate.”
Over in the corner, Grubi nods and waves, wearing the
official Judge Hat, which is actually just something leftover from Holtby’s
Halloween costume of two years ago.
“All pranks must be complete in effect by midnight of
next week. Anything that happens after that is grounds for immediate
disqualification, and you have to wear the Terry shirt for the rest of the
No one said anything. Nicky sat in silence for another full
minute, tension growing ever thicker.
“With no further updates, we are now in live competition,”
Nicky says. He stands up. “And I am currently in the lead,” he says,
as a smile breaks on his face, and he bolts out of the room. Ovi, Alzy, and
everyone in a chair tries to jump up after him, and—go nowhere fast, though Ovi
rips most of the seat out of his sweats yanking away from the chair.
“Fucking superglue,” Oshie says, half in disgust,
half in admiration. “Goddammit. He set that up before we came in. That shouldn’t
count! I object!”
“Official ruling. Prank did not go into effect until
after competition was live,” Grubi says. “It stands. Backy has fifty
points per every chair.”
“Backy! You dead!” Ovi has already taken his pants
off and is headed out the door after Nicky, a not entirely unusual sight. Everyone
else is trying to extract themselves without losing more cloth or skin than
nicky surprising everyone by being the one to spoil his kids for once?
Kuzy huffed as he set the last grocery bag on the counter. “Jesus, Papa, this was a big trip.”
“Well,” Papa idly replied, “Your Mama and I will be gone part of next week and three teenage boys live in this house. And V.”
Kuzy nodded, that made sense. Andre was already pawing through the bags, most likely looking for his favorite Swedish energy drink which Kuzy was eighty-five percent sure Mama strong armed the local Giant into carrying. That seven figure salary sure does come in handy.
Andre made a noise of surprise. “Papa, what’s this?” he asked, brandishing a bottle of chocolate syrup.
“Yeah,” Tom echoed. “And what are these?” He pulled two cans of whipped cream and a box of sprinkles from the nearest bag.
“Yeah, Nicky, what’s this?” Mama said, looking into two different grocery bags filled with different cartons of ice cream. V stood up on his tiptoes to look over Mama’s arms into the bags, eleven-year old eyebrows raised in disbelief.
Papa sighed. “You caught me. I thought we could have ice cream sundaes after dinner tonight.”
The room felt silent as four pairs of eyes landed on Papa.
“Papa,” Kuzy said slowly. “Are you dying? Is Mama dying? Are the dogs dying? Oh god, am I dying?”
Papa rolled his eyes in fond exasperation. “No ones dying, Zhenya. I just thought it would be nice to do something fun.”
Tom, clearly not buying it, screwed his face up in concentration. “Is it someone’s birthday?”
“Did you make Mama mad?” V asked.
“Did Deborah finally die?” Andre asked.
“God, I wish,” Papa said feelingly. “I mean, no what a terrible thing to say. Don’t wish death on people. Maybe just permanent injury. On Deborah.”
Mama laughed and strode over to plant a wet, smacking kiss on Papa’s lips. “Usually it’s my job to spoil kids.”
As Tom and Andre fake gagged, V pointed imperiously at the PDA jar and Kuzy said, “Okay that’s like a solid $5 fine right there.”
Papa laughed and pushed Mama away and smiled at the boys. “The ice cream’s going to melt if you all don’t put it in the freezer, so hop to it. If you’re good I’ll make brownies too.”